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Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Microsoft has released a preview version of Windows 8.1 for users to test and provide feedback. Here’s how you can get it right now.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get itThe new Start button gives you many of the old features back, but not all of them. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

If you’ve been screaming from the rooftops for Microsoft to return the Start button to Windows, you’re going to be happy. On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled Windows 8.1 at its Microsoft Build conference. The update brings a long list of new features, but most notably, the Start button returns!

Along with the announcement of Windows 8.1 and its new features, Microsoft also announced the release of a preview version for Windows 8.1. Anyone can download and install the preview, but keep in mind it’s not final software and is likely to be full of bugs and issues.

To get the Windows 8.1 preview you simply need to visit this link and click on “Get it now.” Currently, however, the ISO files aren’t available for download, with a note on the site stating that the proper files will be available “within the next day.” You can also install the preview through the Windows Store if you don’t want to wait for the ISO to become available.

Microsoft has posted a Preview FAQ page to help answer any questions concerning installing the preview via the various methods, or the stability of the beta version. You’ll also want to be sure to check the FAQ to ensure your system is compatible with the update, but as a general rule of thumb, if you’re already running Windows 8, you’ll be able to run 8.1. Make sure to create a complete backup before updating, and treat installing the update as a permanent change on your machine, as going back to Windows 8 requires a complete restore of your system (thus the need for the backup).

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Coinciding with Microsoft’s BUILD 2013 conference this week, the public preview of Windows 8.1 has been released over at Microsoft’s Windows website.

Windows 8.1 (née Blue) is Windows 8’s first service pack, presenting Microsoft’s first chance to iterate on Windows 8 after the OS’s rocky launch. This goes for both the traditional desktop/mobile PC environment, and the tablet environment where yearly OS updates have come to be expected.

Consequently a number of the changes in Windows 8.1 are to the Metro/Modern layer, such as changes to tile management and window snapping, however there are some low level changes that techies will also be interested in. Among other things, Windows 8.1 will ship with support for Intel’s Connected Standby technology for Haswell, and a revised DPI scaling mechanism that is better suited for driving the high DPI displays that are coming down the pipeline for both Ultrabooks and desktops. We’ll have some updates on these features once we get a chance to tinker with Win8.1 in depth.

Windows 8.1 is being made available as both an update and an ISO. The update itself is being distributed through the Windows Store app – after downloading and installing the requisite platform patch from Microsoft’s website – and weighs in at a hefty 2.44GB for the Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. The ISO files have not been posted yet, but are expected to be available tomorrow.

Update

To go along with the release of the new OS, AMD has released a new Catalyst preview driver set. The new drivers bring support for WDDM 1.3 and its associated features to Trinity and GCN hardware, though the driver also covers last-generation VLIW5 hardware.

Update 2

Like AMD, NVIDIA has also released new drivers, version 326.01. However unlike AMD these drivers are only being distributed through Windows Update to machines running Windows 8.1.

A couple of weeks ago, Antoine Leblond talked about continuing the Windows 8 vision with Windows 8.1. It continues to push ahead with our bet that the PC industry is going through a shift that is driven by mobility. We previously announced that Windows 8.1 will be a free update for Windows 8 consumers later this year through the Windows Store – but today we are providing an opportunity for people to take a first-hand look at many of the new features and improvements with the Windows 8.1 Preview.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been running the Windows 8.1 Preview on many of my PCs and tablets. And I’m really enjoying it.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

My Start screen is filled with all kinds of apps with tiles in various sizes – Windows 8.1 adds two new tile sizes: large (really big) and small (really small). For example – I have the Weather app as a big tile and it now shows me today’s and tomorrow’s forecasts. Big tiles can have much more information on them, which is great. On my devices with smaller screens – like my tablet – I feel I can pack in more apps into a single view on my Start screen with the new small tile sizes. The best part is my Start screen customizations, apps, and files get synced across all my Windows 8.1 PCs and tablets, which is awesome. If I change my Start screen, install new apps, pin new apps to my Start screen on one PC – that all gets synced to my other PCs. The Windows Store has been redesigned, making it super easy to find the apps I want. And several of the apps that come with Windows 8 have been updated for Windows 8.1 – plus there’s some new ones which you’ll hear about today.

For more on features included in Windows 8.1, I suggest reading this blog post. For a more complete look at all the features in Windows 8.1, I suggest checking out the Product Guide.

Before you install the Windows 8.1 Preview, it is also highly recommended you backup any files you have on your PC or tablet first. Please see the Windows 8.1 Preview FAQ before installing, which includes information on how to go back to Windows 8 if you need to. There are certain cases in which you will not be able to go back to Windows 8 after installing the Windows 8.1 Preview so please read the FAQ before proceeding.

Install the Windows 8.1 Preview!

Go to the Windows 8.1 Preview page on Windows.com. The Windows 8.1 Preview will be installed through the Windows Store. Please see the Windows 8.1 Preview FAQ for the minimum requirements needed to install the Windows 8.1 Preview.

Please note: If you are on Windows RT and have installed a language pack, please don’t install the Windows RT 8.1 Preview at this time. A fix is coming so check back soon.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

But first, you need to install a small update provided on the Preview page that enables Windows 8 to offer the Windows 8.1 Preview update through the Windows Store. After the update is installed, you will need to reboot your PC. When Windows 8.1 is released, this update to the Windows Store will be installed automatically by Windows Update.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

You will be greeted with a message to install the Windows 8.1 Preview when logging back in to your PC after reboot. To commence with the install of the Windows 8.1 Preview – press “Go to the Store.”

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

You will be taken to the Windows Store page for the Windows 8.1 Preview where you can click “Download” to install the Windows 8.1 Preview. Here, you will also find links for more information about the Windows 8.1 Preview including the FAQ which I recommend reading before proceeding with the install.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Then Windows 8.1 Preview will download. Before it installs, it will do a series of compatibility checks to make sure your PC can run the Preview. If an issue is found, the installation won’t proceed.

Please note: Some tablets and PCs running newer 32-bit Atom processors require updates to their graphics drivers before they can run the Windows 8.1 Preview. Those tablets and PCs include the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, ASUS VivoTab TF810C, HP Envy X2, HP ElitePad 900, Samsung ATIV Smart PC, and Fujitsu ARROWS Tab. We are working closely with Intel and OEM partners to deliver updated drivers that will allow you to install the Windows 8.1 Preview as soon as possible.

UPDATED 7/2/2013: New drivers are now available for most tablets and PCs running Intel’s newer 32-bit Atom processors and now can install the Windows 8.1 Preview. Please note that the Fujitsu ARROWS Tab series of tablets are still blocked at this time and we continue to work closely with our partners to resolve this issue.

If everything checks out, your PC may reboot a few times as the Windows 8.1 Preview installs!

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

After the installation completes, there will be a few more screens to click through. To take full-on advantage of the new cloud connectivity in the Windows 8.1 Preview, you will need to sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account. And make sure you take a look at the beta fish tattoo for the Start screen – watch its bubbles move.

If you are an enterprise customer or IT Professional and interested in testing the Windows 8.1 Preview out – stay tuned for more information in the next day or so from us via the Windows for your Business Blog and Springboard Series Blog. Please note that the Windows 8.1 Preview ISO files will be made available within the next day.

If you run into any issues or have any questions and want to engage with other Windows enthusiasts, please head on over to the Microsoft Community forums for 8.1 Preview and 8.1 RT Preview.Our Windows support agents will be active there and taking part in discussions. We won’t be able to provide technical support via the comments here on our blog posts but definitely let us know what you think of Windows 8.1.

Our CEO Steve Ballmer is kicking off Build 2013 right now in San Francisco – you can watch the live stream here from Channel 9. Julie Larson-Green and Antoine Leblond will be joining Steve on stage to talk about and show off Windows 8.1. We’ll have more to say later this morning so watch for a follow-up blog post from me soon!

Summary

This compatibility update improves the compatibility experience in Windows RT 8.1 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview. Microsoft regularly releases Windows compatibility updates to improve the overall user experience. This compatibility update is dated June 2013.

More Information

Update information

How to obtain this update

This update is applied when you upgrade to Windows 8.1 Preview or Windows RT 8.1 Preview. No interaction is required to apply this update.

The kinds of problems that are resolved by application compatibility updates

When you try to install and run certain games or applications in Windows RT 8.1 Preview or Windows 8.1 Preview, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

The game, the application, or the driver is installed incorrectly.

The game, the application, or the driver causes system instability.

The primary functions of the game, the application, or the firmware do not work correctly.

Applications or devices that experience a change in behavior after you install this update

The following table lists the applications and devices that were included in this cumulative update package. This table also describes the behavior of these applications and devices after you install the update.

Compatibility updates trigger several changes in Windows RT 8.1 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview. The following are the most common.

Hard block

A hard block prevents an application that is incompatible with Windows RT 8.1 Preview or Windows 8.1 Preview from running on the system.

Note Microsoft enables Windows to put a hard block on a non-Microsoft application only if the manufacturer is notified.

Soft block

A soft block notifies you when the primary functionality of the application is broken or when the application experience is unstable in Windows RT 8.1 Preview or Windows 8.1 Preview.

Driver block

This action blocks an existing driver on your computer. When the driver is migrated during the upgrade, an Inbox driver is installed.

Migration block

This action blocks an incompatible application from being migrated either completely or partially during the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 Preview.

Applications and devices that are included in this update

Behavior after you install the update

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview.

Dr.Web Security Space Pro

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview, by blocking the application’s installation on Windows 8.1 Preview, and by providing a URL for more information about the product.

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview, by blocking the application’s installation on Windows 8.1 Preview, and by providing a URL for more information about the product.

Qihoo 360 Safeguard

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview.

Rising Personal Firewall

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview.

Bitdefender Internet Security 2013

Improves user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1 Preview.

Norton security products

Enables the application’s functionality.

Enables the application’s functionality.

The third-party products that this article discusses are manufactured by companies that are independent of Microsoft. Microsoft makes no warranty, implied or otherwise, about the performance or reliability of these products.

Prerequisites

To apply this update, you must be running Windows RT 8.1 Preview or Windows 8.1 Preview.

Registry information

To apply this update, you do not have to make any changes to the registry.

Restart requirement

You do not have to restart the computer after you apply this update.

Hotfix replacement information

This update does not replace a previously released update.

The global version of this update installs files that have the attributes that are listed in the following tables. The dates and the times for these files are listed in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The dates and the times for these files on your local computer are displayed in your local time together with your current daylight saving time (DST) bias. Additionally, the dates and the times may change when you perform certain operations on the files.

Windows RT 8.1 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview file information notes

The files that apply to a specific product, milestone (RTM,SP n), and service branch (LDR, GDR) can be identified by examining the file version numbers as shown in the following table:

Windows RT 8.1 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview

GDR service branches contain only those fixes that are widely released to address widespread, critical issues. LDR service branches contain hotfixes in addition to widely released fixes.

The Window 8.1 Preview is just announced today. A lot of new features are packed in the new Windows 8.1 preview. I’m going to tell you how to download Windows 8.1 Preview. Remember this is only Preview version, not the original version. The original version will come some time in this year. You should consider downloading the Windows 8.1 Preview if all of the following apply to you:

  • Like to use the latest software and enjoy experimenting on technology
  • Feel comfortable in backing up PC, formatting a hard drive, and installing an OS from scratch
  • Feel comfortable in troubleshooting PC problem yourself
  • Don’t mind updating software frequently
  • Can create installation or recovery media and have the knowledge to restore your previous operating system after you’re done testing Windows 8.1 Preview

Risks of using the Windows 8.1 Preview:

  • Software won’t install or work correctly, including antivirus and security programs
  • Printers, video cards, and other hardware won’t work
  • Difficulty accessing public or home network
  • Damage to some of your files
  • If you’re running Windows RT, you won’t be able to restore Windows RT after you install Windows RT 8.1 Preview on you device. But you are able to upgrade to the final version of Windows RT 8.1
  • If the installation of Windows 8.1 Preview fails on your PC, you should contact your PC manufacturer
  • In order to use Windows 8.1, you must signin to your PC with Microsoft account. The option to create local account will be available in the final version of Windows 8.1

Requirements of using Windows 8.1:

  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster
  • RAM: 1 GB (x86), 2 GB (x64)
  • Free hard disk space: 16 GB (x86), 20 GB (x64)
  • Graphics Card: DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
  • For x64 Windows 8.1 Preview, your CPU must support CMPXCHG16b, PrefetchW and LAHF/SAHF
  • To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch
  • To access Windows Store, download an app, and run an app, you need an Internet Connection, screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, and a Microsoft Account.
  • Internet access
  • If you installed Windows 8.1 Preview in a language that is different from the language that is currently on your PC, you can only keep your files not your apps or settings
  • If you’re running Windows 8 and have installed the Language Pack, they’ll be removed when you install the Windows 8.1 Preview

If you want to know if your device works with Windows 8.1 Preview, check out the Windows 8 Compatibility Center Things that you’re able to keep when you upgrade from Windows OS:

  • Windows 8: Personal files, settings, and most apps
  • Windows RT: Personal files, settings, and most apps
  • Windows 7: Personal files
  • Windows Vista: Nothing, boot from media and perform a clean install
  • Windows XP: Nothing, boot from media and perform a clean install
  • If you’re running Windows 8 and you don’t use any of the 13 languages the preview is available in, you’ll need to install using the ISO
  • If you’re running Windows 8 Enterprise, you’ll need to install the preview using ISO

How to Install by using Windows Store:

  1. Download the update here
  2. After downloading, open it and follow the instruction on it
  3. Restart your PC
  4. After restarting, there will be a message asking you to check out the Windows Store to see the Windows 8. Preview.
  5. Go to the store, download the Windows 8.1 Preview.
  6. After download, follow the instructions shown to finish the installation.

How to Install by using .ISO file:

  1. Download the .iso file
  2. Open the .iso file
  3. Double-click the setup.exe
  4. Follow the instruction shown
  • You need to update your firmware and drivers during the installation, you should also install all required updates from Windows Update
  • You need to free up disk space during the installation, consider copying files to USB or uninstalling it
  • If you start to get Windows 8.1 Preview, but decided to stop, open control panel search for View Installed Updates, look for the Microsoft Windows category and uninstall KB2849636

You don’t need product key if you install Windows 8.1 Preview from Windows Store. You need product key for Windows 8.1 Preview if you installed it through the .iso file, the product key is NTTX3-RV7VB-T7X7F-WQYYY-9Y92F.

Thanks for reading hope it helps you, ask a question by commenting on this page.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Today Microsoft released the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, an early build of the upcoming Windows 8 refresh aimed at large companies that need extensive control features to keep their machines, software and data secure.

If you are the sort of person who would have use for such a thing, you can find the code here.

Windows 8.1 will not extend the general life of the Windows 8 operating system. Instead, Microsoft stated today in a blog post, Widows 8.1 will see its support end on January 10, 2023. That said, Windows 8 users will only have two years to switch to Windows 8.1 once it is released. Those who fail to do so won’t be “supported under Windows 8 lifecycle.”

With the release of the Enterprise Preview, Microsoft also detailed a number of new features that it contains, including side-loading, which will allow companies to side-load apps onto machines that are “domain-joined,” as well as DirectAccess, which will allow users to “access resources inside a corporate network remotely” sans the use of another virtual private network.

Also in the updated operating system are restricted store access if a corporation deems that safer and a tool that allows Windows 8.1 devices to safely access a company’s secure data.

Windows 8 was not an enterprise-focused operating system at launch. Instead it had, in my view, a strong consumer and tablet focus. However, Windows 7 update cycles eventually end, and Microsoft needs to create a new core, stable, enterprise capable operating system. The slew of features that are coming in 8.1 to the Enterprise build of Windows 8 will do much to assist its maturation into something that it was not at launch.

We’ll see Windows 8.1 this year. What its impact will be on sagging PC sales remains uncertain.

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Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Adam Z. Lein
  • Surface,
  • Windows 8,
  • Windows 8.1

Microsoft just released a publicly available preview version of the new Windows 8.1 operating system at their BUILD 2013 conference. The preview version is really supposed to be only for people who want to do some testing and work on building new applications for the operating system, however, we had to install it on a Surface Pro right away to see how everything is going to change in the world of Windows tablets… and there certainly is a lot that’s going to change with Windows 8.1. Most of the changes are really refinements, but some are quite different. For example, the search charm no longer allows you to choose which app you want to search. It only has options for everywhere, settings, files, web images, and web videos. Search options for specific apps now seem to be built into the apps themselves which kind of defeats the purpose of the original search charm in Windows 8. Regardless, the new search function is quite powerful. It can be activated simply by typing whatever you want from the start screen (just like Windows Vista) and if your top result is an app or setting, it’s automatically selected so that all you have to do is hit enter to launch it. If your search term is not something that’s on your PC, it will allow you to search the internet and the results are often a very nicely designed landscape graphical layout of all sorts of related information. It’s actually pretty impressive. If you search for a musical artist, you get songs that you can listen to right away in the Xbox Music app… along with all sorts of photos, videos, and web page results.

The multi-tasking, multi-window-pane interface has been overhauled as well. In Windows 8, you really only had 3 size options for your “metro” apps. Either a narrow column, full screen, or a wide column. With Windows 8.1, the column widths are adjustable to just about whatever width you want. If you have multiple monitors, you’ll be able to arrange multiple columns of apps across them. Unfortunately, with this added multi-tasking flexibility there comes some weirdness when launching new apps. Instead of tapping an app icon and having it instantly appear on the screen, the app’s icon appears floating over your multiple window panes. There’s no visual indication of what it’s doing or what you’re supposed to do about it. It looks like the app has frozen and there are display problems. Really, you have to tap the app’s icon and drag it to the window pane that you want it to load into. Hopefully that interface can be made much more user-friendly before final release.

The settings areas have been overhauled, too. PC Settings controls much more than it did in Windows 8 so there will be much less of a need to access the classic Control Panel for the desktop environment. If you access the Settings charm from the Start screen you’ll now have much more extensive customization options including the ability to set the Start screen’s background to be the same image as your desktop’s background. This feature will greatly ease the transition between desktop environment and Windows 8 modern environments… just be sure to pick a good wallpaper image.

There are plenty of other enhancements coming to Windows 8.1 as well, be sure to take a look at the video below for our first look at what’s new in the Windows 8.1 Preview.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

This morning, Microsoft released Windows 8.1. Windows 8 users can upgrade for free by visiting the Windows Store; if you have another operating system, the upgrade will cost you the same price as Windows 8 itself: $120 for the normal version, or $200 for Windows 8.1 Pro. Windows 8.1 is a fairly major update for both tablet and laptop/desktop users, providing a better experience both within the Metro interface on touchscreens and with the mouse and keyboard on the Desktop. Using the mouse and keyboard within the Metro interface, however, still sucks — and the Start button and menu, though technically reinstated, are not back in spirit.

Downloading and installing Windows 8.1

To download and install Windows 8.1, follow our guide for Windows 8, 7, Vista, and other operating systems. For the most part, installing Windows 8.1 is quick, painless, and risk-free, so you don’t need to worry about backing up or other preparatory measures. Do make sure you have plenty of free hard drive space, though (20GB+), and if you’re coming from Windows 8.1 Preview, be sure to read the caveats in our guide.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

New features and major changes in Windows 8.1

As the name implies, Windows 8.1 is more of a revision to Windows 8 than a major update. The new Metro interface is still front and center, and still awful to use with a mouse and keyboard — but, as a concession to those without touchscreens, you can now configure Windows 8.1 to boot straight to the Desktop. The Start button also makes its illustrious return, but all it does is bring up the Metro interface. The Start button can be configured to bring up a rejigged All Apps view, which is kind of like a full-screen Start menu, but it’s still a piggish to navigate with a mouse. If you make extensive use of the real Start menu in Windows XP/Vista/7, you will want to install a third-party Start menu replacement (which still work perfectly with Windows 8.1).

On the Metro side of things, there are extensive updates to configurability and usability. The Metro Control Panel (“PC Settings”) can now be used to change most important settings. You can now split-screen multiple apps, and you’re not restricted to the size and location of the splits — apps can be any width, including 50/50. Multi-monitor support for Metro has improved, too, allowing you to have multiple apps split-screened on multiple monitors.

The Start screen is more configurable, the Lock screen is more functional (it now makes a great digital photo frame), and lots of stock apps have received much-needed updates. The Windows Store has been tweaked, but it’s still pretty rough.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

Bridging the Metro and Desktop divide, Windows 8.1 brings built-in SkyDrive integration (to Metro and Libraries in Explorer), and Search has been significantly bolstered, especially when it comes to web-based search results. There’s also a new option to show your Desktop wallpaper behind the Metro Start screen, which makes a surprisingly big difference when it comes to the jarring juxtaposition between the two interfaces.

Why did we have to wait two years for this?

In short, Windows 8.1 takes Windows 8 — which really was an abomination for mouse-and-keyboard Desktop users, and only slightly better on tablets — and makes it usable. The irony, though, is that almost all of the changes made to Windows 8.1 were originally pointed out two years ago by beta testers of the original Windows 8 Preview.

Windows 8.1 preview released what it means and how to get it

When you consider that Windows 8 and 8.1 have been in development for a grand total of five years, and Microsoft has been making operating systems for more than 20 years, and Windows 7 was one of the best OSes ever released, it’s really hard to imagine how Microsoft got the original release of Windows 8 so, so wrong. (Personally, I think Microsoft only implemented the Metro interface very late into the development of Windows 8, when Apple’s iPad started to blow up… but that’s another conversation for another day.)

Still, I suppose the main thing is that Windows 8.1 is finally usable. Better late than never, and all that — but it would’ve been a lot better if Microsoft had released Windows 8.1 last year. It’s now a matter of whether Windows 8.1 is strong enough on the tablet to unseat iOS and Android, and a big enough upgrade on the desktop to encourage Windows XP and 7 users to upgrade. I am uncertain on both counts.

When (or if) you install Windows 8.1, be sure to check out our collection of Windows 8.1 tips and tricks, especially if you’re using a conventional mouse-and-keyboard PC.